Babylon’s burning

27 05 2017

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The hauntingly prophetic classic novel set in a not-too-distant future where books are burned by a special task force of firemen.

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

Picked this up having realised with some embarrassment that I’d never actually read it. Was also considering it as a possible book for the Nottingham Reading Programme this year. It is a powerful and compelling read and feels really prescient in these post-truth days. Highly recommended (if you are as daft as me and not read before).





Magnetic field

20 05 2017

The Field of the Cloth of Gold by Magnus Mills

 

‘The field looks completely wrong now,’ she announced, one blustery afternoon. ‘It’s all gone out of balance’

The Great Field lies in the bend of a broad, meandering river. Bounded on three sides by water, on the fourth side it dwindles gradually into wilderness. A handful of tents are scattered far and wide across its immensity. Their flags flutter in the warm breeze, rich with the promise of halcyon days.

But more and more people are setting up camp in the lush pastures and with each new arrival life becomes a little more complicated. And when a large and disciplined group arrive from across the river emotions run so high that even a surplus of milk pudding can’t soothe ruffled feathers. Change is coming; change that threatens the delicate balance of power in the Great Field.

 

Strange, surreal, dark and deadpan, this is absolutely pitch perfect and a classic Magnus Mills work. It might be allegorical but then again it might not be. Peculiarly outstanding in many strange parts.

four stars





Golden years

13 05 2017

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

 

One rainy evening in November, a handsome young stranger fresh off the boat pitches up at a counting-house door in Golden Hill Street: this is Mr Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion simmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge amount, and he won’t explain why, or where he comes from, or what he can be planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money.

Should the New York merchants trust him? Should they risk their credit and refuse to pay? Should they befriend him, seduce him, arrest him; maybe even kill him?

Set a generation before the American Revolution, it paints an irresistible picture of a New York provokingly different from its later self: but subtly shadowed by the great city to come, and already entirely a place where a young man with a fast tongue can invent himself afresh, fall in love – and find a world of trouble.

Hugely impressive debut this. Set in mid-18th century New York it is full of rich period detail and lots of plot twists and turns. A real rollercoaster ride which remains compelling right to the very end. Recommended.

 

four stars





Lost in the snow

6 05 2017

Strange Shores by  Arnaldur Indridason

 

51984-vxxzl

A missing woman. A missing boy. Detective Erlendur returns Рfor the last time 

A young woman walks into the frozen fjords of Iceland, never to be seen again. But Matthildur leaves in her wake rumours of lies, betrayal and revenge.

Decades later, somewhere in the same wilderness, Detective Erlendur is on the hunt. He is looking for Matthildur but also for a long-lost brother, whose disappearance in a snow-storm when they were children has coloured his entire life. He is looking for answers.

Slowly, the past begins to surrender its secrets. But as Erlendur uncovers a story about the limits of human endurance, he realises that many people would prefer their crimes to stay buried.

 

Quite a powerful tale this, the final outing for Erlendur, the complex Icelandic detective, who is probing and digging to get to the truth of a mystery from many years ago. At the same time though he is struggling with his own history and guilt about his childhood. Overall it’s a measured, well-paced, subtle and very evocative story. A fitting end to a really good series.

 








%d bloggers like this: